Reform vs. Reform

For those still in doubt whether the Reform movement has become a wing of the Democratic Party, the results of last week’s Convention may resolve the question. According to the Washington Jewish Week, the resolutions passed “put the Union for Reform Judaism… front and center in the political debates roiling Washington.” But they also “place the movement… at odds with much of the organized Jewish community,” and, of course, at odds with many of its own members. At a time when the movement feels compelled to launch a new effort to attract converts, why are they pushing away so many of our own?

Rabbi Eric Yoffie established the tenor of the Convention, launching into a tirade against “the religious right” in which he compared opposition to the “gay rights agenda” to supporting the Nazis. “We cannot forget that when Hitler came to power in 1933, one of the first things that he did was ban gay organizations.” Of course, the banning of “gay organizations” is nowhere on today’s political radar. So unless you support redefinition of marriage, you support totalitarianism — or worse? I’m sure he made those few Reform Jews who still believe in traditional marriage feel right at home.

The movement also characterized its Iraq resolution — which didn’t say this straight out — as opposition to the war. I wonder if they consulted with their Israeli branch before this vote, with special emphasis on anyone who was in Israel in the winter of 1990-1991. Those of us who were there will not soon forget Saddam Hussein’s special feelings about Jerusalem, as expressed in an ongoing barrage of Scud missiles against Israel. The sealed rooms into which we evacuated ourselves — not to mention the thousands of Kurds gassed by Saddam — put the lie to this nonesense about how the White House “lied” about Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction. Saddam not only had them but used them during his career, and according to every intelligence agency of every free government in the world, still had them when the US went to war. Whether that intelligence was accurate doesn’t make it a “lie,” and no one has even suggested that Saddam had given up on his desire for WMDs.

The US has now learned what Israelis knew all along — namely, that its not as if the Arabs get along too well among themselves, either. But it has no choice but to stay the course, because otherwise the new Iraqi dictator may be even worse than the one they thankfully and finally deposed. I guess the Reform leadership doesn’t see that as much of a risk — Islamic fanaticism hasn’t bothered anyone outside the MidEast for almost four whole years, right? There are an awful lot of Jews out there who admire Daniel Pipes and his Middle East Forum, willing to take a longer view of Iraq than the time necessary to click the remote. They, too, were disenfranchised at the Convention.

But then we get to Alito. First of all, on his merits Samuel Alito will be a great Supreme Court Justice from a Jewish perspective. Not only is he extremely well-qualified, but he is extremely sensitive to religious rights. This comes from Nathan Lewin, whose outstanding record as an advocate for Jewish religious freedoms can hardly be questioned. So unless left-wing politics is more important to them than Jewish religious rights, they should be cheering the nomination.

But second, he seems about as likely to be rejected as Harriet Miers was to get confirmed. Famous last words, I know, but it’s still true. His qualifications are so overwhelming that unless you demand that George Bush appoint a liberal justice, you’re not likely to find good reasons for people to vote against him. He’s a shoo-in, so why antagonize people for nothing?

All of this rejection of conservative views most certainly adds up — and at a time when the movement recognizes that it is failing to attract people, and is making a new push for conversion of non-Jewish spouses to bolster its ranks, it simply doesn’t make sense to drive Jews away.

It seems the Reform movement put liberalism ahead of not only Jewish priorities, but their own efforts to develop an “inclusive” environment. Before reaching out to non-Jews, why not make the movement more hospitable to conservative (small-c) Reform Jews?

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2 Responses

  1. moshe kuhr says:

    I don’t think Menken really understands heterodoxy. Reform does not define the Jewish People as the Orthodox do. Their agenda is directed at a different constituency, their “converts” and the unaffiliated. By their lights, their growth is geometric, with unlimited potential. Every intermarriage produces 2 potential reform members. They are not about to abandon their belief systems.


  2. Toby Katz says:

    “It seems the Reform movement put liberalism ahead of not only Jewish priorities….”

    Liberalism to them is the ONLY Jewish priority — it is the very definition of Judaism.

    Once a critical mass of intelligent Reform Jews gets around to reading Milton Friedman, the whole Reform movement is done for.

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